Under cultural pressure to have sons, some Indian immigrant women are using reproductive technologies and liberal abortion policies in the US to abort female foetuses, according to a study conducted by University of California.
The women used sperm sorting or in-vitro fertilisation and implanted only the male embryos. Others aborted female foetuses.
The study doesn’t mention how widespread the practise is, it covers a small sample group. Researchers interviewed 65 immigrant Indian women in California, New Jersey and New York who pursued foetal sex selection between September 2004 and December 2009.
Of the women, 40% had terminated prior pregnancies when carrying a female; 89% who found out they were carrying a girl during the interview period, had an abortion.
The women came from various religious and educational backgrounds and approximately half the women interviewed held jobs outside the home.
These results were consistent among all education levels; thirty eight had finished high school, 12 had graduated from college and 15 held advanced degrees in medicine, law, business, nursing and scientific research.
In addition, women who carried a female foetus said they were subject to varying degrees of verbal and physical abuse.
“Health care providers often are well-positioned to intervene or suggest options, but may be hesitant to approach issues perceived as ‘cultural’,” said lead author Sunita Puri, a resident doctor in University of California, San Francisco.
The Indian government prohibits using ultrasound and sperm-sorting technologies explicitly for sex selection. In contrast, choosing an abortion for whatever reason, as well as selecting the sex of a child through various medical techniques, is legal in the United States.
Women identified female in-laws and husbands as sources of significant pressure to have male children. This was especially true when in-laws lived nearby, but also occurred if they remained in India, according to the study. The study participants immigrated after age 18 from the Indian states and territories of Punjab, Haryana, New Delhi, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
Puri conducted the interviews in English, Punjabi and Hindi.